If the Field’s From Here We Go Sublime was the electronic album of the first half of the year, then Arp’s In Light might win out for the second half. The two albums have a lot in common: Their minimal approaches to pop, their endless experimentation with sounds, their joyful optimism, their single-member lineups. But where the Field’s Axel Willner explored the modern techno landscape of percussion and sampling, Arp’s Alexis Georgopoulos, a founder of the dance-punk group Tussle, takes the opposite route, crafting Krautrock-inspired instrumentals with only the lingering hint of anything resembling a drum. This is beautiful, other-worldly stuff, filtering Neu! through the lens of Endless Summer.
The album cover says it all: a California sunset — Georgopoulos is based in San Francisco — with an ever-expanding sky, symmetrical and balanced. But you can easily detect the digital quality of the photo. In the same way, In Light takes the transcendental aspects of the world and analyzes them, puts them through computers, and prints out a new image resembling the original but necessarily transformed. It’s an exercise in memory, not in endurance. Even though no song is under five minutes, and one track, "Odyssey," stretches past fifteen, it never feels like a trick. That’s because Arp crafts an album here, each song like a separate movement. Opener "St. Tropez" takes a simple approach, with softly chiming bells providing the rhythm and spacey synths revealing short bursts of melodies. From here, Georgopoulos begins complicating and exploring the possibilities of the means he’s established in the beginning.
"Potentialities" is the stand-out, with layers of floating guitars and synthesizers placed over a slightly modulating pulse machine. "The Rising Sun" begins as what might be a score to a German existentialist film — little electro flutes with sparkling pianos — and morphs into a fuzzy, lost Fennesz track. The 9/8 time of "Premonition of the Sculptor Steiner" is strangely reminiscent of the Beatles’ "Dig a Pony," although abstracted and analyzed nearly beyond recognition. The centerpiece of the album is "Odyssey (For Bas Jan Ader)," an epic exercise in sound manipulation.
Just one loop was used for In Light; everything else was recorded live. Paradoxically, it’s this natural aesthetic that lets the album reach a state of new experience that other electronic albums with canned sounds can only strive for. The ethos of Kraftwerk runs through In Light‘s veins. The strings and Springsteen piano of "Potentialities II" bring the album back down to Earth, reminding the listener of the natural inspirations for Arp. Alexis Georgopoulos here issues a call for musicians and listeners to examine their surrounding world. But for the time spent listening to In Light, you only want to get lost in his.